Its 2000. Lagos. Bogobiri Lodge. I came from Owerri to take care of some business and to see an old friend Andy visiting from Hong Kong. He’s recently divorced. We are genuinely happy to see each other. We spend hours talking over a cold beer at the bar. He tells me about his latest photography project. I tell him about my social work with female victims of domestic violence. We discuss excitedly the prospects for democracy in the post Abacha era.
Not long before I decided to find out what feminism means. I’d been called one all my adult life and I rejected the label based on a superficial bias planted in my young mind by the popular media and my evil step mother Lilia. I share my wonder and excitement with Andy.
‘I am a feminist’ I declare proudly. ‘I am an African feminist.’ I tell Andy about Professors Rose and Catherine Acholonu and Rosemary Nwachukwu. I had read Oyewumi and Chiweizu. I am reading mostly about feminism in Igbo-Nigeria and goddess worship. Feminism isn’t only drab man hating dykes in bad clothes!
The sun is going down when Richie joins us. He’s a cute rugby player with dimples and amazing doe eyes. He’s modelling for Andy. We talk some more. Richie talks motorbikes and rugby. He’s also flirting with those eyes. When he’s ready to go he asks if I want a ride on his bike to the beach to watch the sunset. I say yes.
Andy has to shout over the roar of the 8000cc Honda engine “Lesley you’re a disgrace! you ride off into the sunset with the first muscle bound jock on a bike you see and you call yourself a feminist?” I wonder if he’s joking or if he’s serious? I laugh anyway.
But it gets me thinking. Is there a certain type of relationship feminists have or should have or should aspire to have? Do I have to have a certain type of relationship? With a certain type of man? Or woman? Or person?
Surely if people in relationships can tie each other up and inflict physical pain on each other I can chose a muscle bound hunk of middling intelligence over a fun but flabby professor of philosophy without prejudice and problem?
There’s a pattern. One fine boy after another. Each lasting roughly 3 years. I read that’s about how long the chemistry of sexual attraction lasts. For that 3 years I am completely and happily infatuated. Knowing it will end. Preparing for it. Its not like I want to get married. Remember.
I’m 46 now. Still falling for cute ‘boys’ on bikes. My friends gave me a new label – ‘cougar’. I googled it. Women being honest about what they like and what they want. I can live with that. When asked by more thoughtful and prudent sisters who I will spend my old age with I say ‘I don’t know but he’s probably going to be young and beautiful’
People frequently ask me about love. A complex issue and different from sexual attraction. The sooner folks figure that out the sooner we can start healing marriages and relationships. Of course their real question is ‘Lesley what if you fall in love?’ I do fall ‘in love’ every single time. We just don’t always stay in love.
This is true. I did not try to make it last but neither did he. Not after he put that ring on my finger and that baby in my belly. I’m not going to do all the work. Its reciprocity or nothing. 50/50. I tried once to be the ‘good woman’: domestic, modest and submissive. I felt cheated. I left.
Someone was extolling the virtues of ‘true love’ on Facebook couple days ago defined as ‘happily ever after’. Expressing pity for people that don’t find it. An unnecessary judgment that assumed everyone is looking for a long term committed monogamous heterosexual relationship. And that anything else is problematic.
Comon Andy! Isn’t feminism about freedom to make choices?